If no one would have come, would you have raped her?… Uncle?
“12, 13, 14,” I strained as I counted. Push-ups had become most punishing, thanks to my busted shoulder. Suddenly, from the sounds of my heavy breaths and heavier dubstep bass, my attention was diverted to an even heavier commotion unravelling downstairs.
I turned down the volume of my stereo and stepped to the window to see old uncles, aunties and even middle aged people in the midst of a heated discussion.
This union was a rare sight.
The old uncles always sat in one corner narrating anecdotes from when they were in the ARMY and competed with regards to the levels of respect they received while serving.
The old aunties always sat in the other corner gossiping about that guy they saw hugging a girl shamelessly in full view of our “respectable” colony.
The middle-aged people always used to be too busy bringing up their young kids and building a foundation for their future to be a part of this charade.
But they all sat together THAT NIGHT. I had to know what was going on.
A woman sat in the middle of the group… sobbing. All I could hear was —
“Don’t you worry. We will see to it that he apologizes to you.”
“He will be shamed in front of the very society that gave him respect.”
“But Ma’am, think about the reputation… of everybody involved. Maybe it is not the best decision.”
“It would be ideal if this is settled internally… I mean, call the police if you must but do think about the repercussions.”
“It is your daughter were are talking about here.”
Everyone spoke except her.
I spent the next 15 minutes piecing things together and when I was finally done, I couldn’t believe what had happened —
A respectable old uncle had molested a ten year old girl in our colony.
Big deal, right? This shit happens everyday in India? But let me translate it to a language that outsiders might understand better —
A retired Brigadier had molested a serving Colonel’s under-aged daughter.
Does that make for a better headline? Not really, right? If men with principles can’t put a noose around the neck of their perversions, can we really trust anybody?
Let’s call the Brigadier Uncle B.
Uncle B’s background was flawless in most of our eyes. He was the coolest uncle in the colony of depressed, angry and unreasonable people. Bullets, bombs, bloodshed and death tends to have that effect. But not on him. While everyone had a problem with us playing any kind of game in the building compound, he always supported us. All the oldies spent their now empty lives bitching and reminiscing about the past but Uncle B always kept himself busy. He couldn’t walk properly and used a cane which made everyone feel all the more sorry for him.
But despite that, most of the times he could be seen in the gardens PLANTING SEEDS…OF EVIL apparently.
Let’s refer to her by the pseudonym Pari.
To be honest, I had had only two proper interactions with this young girl although I saw her playing all the time. She was bubbly, talkative, quick witted, ambitious, smart… I mean, way to smart for her age. I was like, “I used to be a dumb-ass then. I still am now.”
On the day of the incident, a family-party was to be held at Pari’s house later in the evening. You see, her family was about to shift in a week’s time as her Colonel father was getting posted to a new location.
A few guests from Pari’s mother’s side had already arrived… her Grandma(Nani), her Aunt(Masi), etc. Her Uncle(Mausa) was to arrive directly from work. Pari’s mother was attending to them while Pari went down to play with her friends. The mother kept a constant eye on her child through the window even though she wasn’t worried. You can never stop worrying.
Uncle B was fond of kids and the kids were fond of him. Hell, even I as an adult was. I don’t remember a time when he was a stranger to me.
He had just purchased a new car and wanted to take the kids out for a small drive. None of the parents objected because they all trusted him completely.
He took only the girls. Apparently, there wasn’t enough room in the car for the boys. They were anyway more interested in zipping around the buildings on their cycles.
According to the little girls, the drive was unusually awkward. He would slow down in places where there were no cars. “Aren’t you supposed to speed up now?” they thought. It didn’t make sense to them but he was searching for A SPOT, possibly abandoned. Fortunately, he was not successful in finding one.
Eventually, he had to take them back to the colony. No harm done, right? Well, not yet.
One of the girls felt really strange and decided to follow her gut instinct. As soon as the car entered the colony gate, she made Uncle B stop the car and got out making an excuse, “My stomach is paining,” after which she intimated all the others to get out as well.
THEY DID. ALL BUT ONE… PARI.
Uncle B asked her if she wanted to ride a little while longer, just till the parking lot. She was too excited about the new car and agreed. He told the other kids that he would quickly park the car and get her to join them as soon as possible.
The Grandma and Mother were watching through the window. The view was not clear. They thought that Pari had gotten off along with the others. The Grandma said to her daughter, “What a good man! Making kids smile.”
Meanwhile, in the parking lot, Uncle B found what he was looking for all along… A DESERTED SPOT.
He pounced at the opportunity and undressed her completely. His desperation brought some kind of maniacal strength to his old arms as he groped around Pari’s chest in a frenzy as the 10-year-old froze in fear.
The other kids began to wonder why it was taking them so long to come back. The parking lot was not far away. The kids decided to investigate.
Uncle B saw them coming towards the car and hastily slipped Pari’s dress back onto her body.
The kids saved Pari.
I dread even thinking about what would have happened had the kids not reached there in time.
I want to meet him sometime and ask him, “If no one would have come, would you have raped her?… Uncle?” and I want him to answer me with all honesty.
Pari directly went home without saying a word. The mother opened the door to her dishevelled daughter. The mother asked her what had happened but she was so frightened that she didn’t say anything for an hour.
She finally broke her silence and told her mother everything. This unleashed the most dangerous thing in the world… a mother’s rage.
The angry mother stormed to Uncle B’s house and knocked at his door asking him to open up immediately and apologize for what he had done. She kept knocking for half an hour before Uncle B’s wife finally opened the door. Inside, he was casually watching T.V as he refused to acknowledge his mistake and his wife refused to believe that he could do such a thing. On the contrary, he accused Pari of lying. Now why would an 10-year-old, who has no motive whatsoever, lie?
He didn’t even come to the door to have a face-to-face with the mother and the wife didn’t let her in.
At first, the mother only wanted an apology. She was angry and emotional and not thinking clearly. The thought of a police complaint had not crossed her mind. After Uncle B insulted her and refused to accept guilt, she decided to seek help of the neighbours…. the old uncles and aunties sitting downstairs(This is the conversation I overheard in the beginning).
Pari’s Uncle(Mausa) arrived from his office for the party and when he got to know what happened, he rescued Pari’s mother from the oldies and they decided to immediately lodge an FIR at the Police Station.
Uncle B was soon arrested and put behind bars with molestation and attempt-to-rape charges.
This swift action might not have been taken had Pari’s mother not had connections with the local politicians. Sometimes…just sometimes they do what they are supposed to – support the helpless…but not without a little push.
Pari’s Colonel father, who was posted at a forward post on the India-Pakistan border, got the rare permission from his Commanding Officer to leave his post and attend to his family.
The hike down the treacherous mountain, where he was posted, took him 8 long hours. An entourage of three army personnel was sent along with him to contain any untoward situation if the Colonel got overwhelmed by emotions.
But the Colonel was making no mistakes. He wouldn’t make any wrong move to scar the water-tight police case.
Saving the Army’s nose.
The army has this over-inflated sense of false ego that they can save their kind from such a “small issue”.
Fellow retired officers spoke to Uncle B in Jail and tried to convince him to apologise to Pari’s mother with the hope that she would forgive him and withdraw the case. No way in hell that was going to happen but still, “no harm in trying,” they thought. But to their horror Uncle B said, “I am not going to apologize to that bitch.”
Even they said, “Serves him right then.”
This entire case has been a hush-hush. A total of two articles have been printed about this. This is the kind of case that should be blown at least to its proportion if not out of it. God forbid, the Army loses face.
I might get in trouble for having told this story or I might not. Either way, the world had to know.
I don’t think, the Army should be angry or even ashamed if the people know of this incident. One man’s wrongdoings do not redefine what a whole clan stands for.
I DEVELOPED A CERTAIN ATTITUDE BY LIVING AMONGST ARMY MEN. THE KIND THAT HELPS ME PUSH THROUGH THE PAIN OF DOING PUSH-UPS DESPITE MY BUSTED SHOULDER. And nothing in the world can change that. But when some men try to cover shit up like this, I don’t know whether to lose faith or stay strong.
But one thing is for sure —
The Army or in a broader context, the world does not create monsters. Monsters dwell inside us. Uncle B was taken over by this monster in spite of spending all his life in a world of principles, discipline and rules which should have taught him to kill it.
If he became vulnerable to his monster, how much longer till we become to ours? Does everyone have a monster? How can we know if a person has one inside him?
I don’t know.
I knew Uncle B all my life and still don’t understand how he could do such a thing.
Totally confused by a simple question the answer to which I thought I knew, I would like you to think hard and tell me — CAN YOU EVER REALLY KNOW SOMEONE?